Monday, July 6, 2009

52 Teachers, 52 Lessons #23: Give Your Students More Control

This week's entry comes from Marcy, a 15-year veteran who teaches middle and high school Spanish at a 6-12 independent school. You can read more of her writing at her blog, Pensamientos.

One of the most difficult things for me as a teacher is allowing myself to allow my students to take greater ownership of their learning in the classroom. Which is a contradiction, for I am constantly stressing to my students the importance of initiative and independence in their learning. I am a control monkey. However, despite being a control monkey, my classes are surprisingly engaging. While I do need my 15 minutes of fame as "teacher diva in da house", the students, for the most part, work independently and in small groups. The main premise of a language class, or, at least as I see it, is interaction. Thus, students interact with the language via speaking, reading, writing, listening and cultural activities, in small groups - usually pairs - or independently.

Relinquishing control is scary. And messy. And undefined. The fear and loathing of anticipating the results in the hands of students has been enough to put me under my desk. However, I am reminded just now of a situation which took place in an Intermediate-level Spanish class which took place eight years ago at my previous school. The students I taught then are now college graduates. The students wanted to have a class session in which there would be food and a film. The very thought of the proposal made me break into a cold sweat. I also wear my feelings on my face, to which the students responded, "Profe, give us a chance. Let us put something together, and then you can look at it and decide." Against my better wishes, I acquiesced, and to their great surprise. To my great surprise, the food and film day was wonderful. It was completely student-owned and operated from beginning and end. They cooked with gas on that one, and it was a proud moment for them and for me.

The aforementioned taught me one of the most valuable lessons of my career: Teachers must have faith in their students and in their learning. It's still a long walk home for me, but I have come a mighty long way.

Read more about this project here or add the 52 teachers 52 lessons tag to your favorites. Email your entries to teachforeverATgmailDOTcom. Week 24 is scheduled for next Monday, July 13th.